Commentary Magazine


Topic: Victor Davis Hanson

So Why Read (Fiction) Anymore?

Yesterday, in his blog Works and Days at PJ Media, the classical historian Victor Davis Hanson asked why anyone should read anymore. He rehearsed several good reasons (reading is mental exercise, it renews the language that social media zaps into an “instant bland hot cereal,” it reverses the intellectual regress that seems to accompany technological progress) before arriving at what strikes me as the soundest reason of all. “[S]peaking and writing well are not just the DSL lines of modern civilization,” Hanson concluded, “but also the keys to self-mastery. . . .” He hurried on to talk about upholding the standards of culture, saying no more about self-mastery. In passing, though, Hanson put his finger on the reason for what Ben Jonson, four centuries ago, called a “mul­ti­plicity of read­ing.” It “maketh a full man,” Jonson said.

That’s not the conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom is that reading leads not to self-mastery, but to self-affirmation. Some such view stands behind the nonprofit labors of Reading Is Fundamental, the children’s literacy organization:

Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.

What follows from this view is that “nonwhite readers” need to “find their mirrors.” They cannot hope to glimpse themselves and their circumstances in “white” books. Thus the call for “diversity” in literature — different groups require different “mirrors” for self-affirmation.

But what if this is exactly backwards? Hanson thinks so: “In his treatise on old age and again in the Pro Archia,” he observes, “Cicero made the argument that learning gives us a common bond.” Cicero is unlikely, however, to convince those who believe that young readers will only feel “part of the larger human experience” if their own smaller experience is affirmed first.

What if both arguments are wrong? What if both the reader hoping for a common bond and the reader in search of self-affirmation are making the same mistake? The mistake, as the poet and literary scholar J. V. Cunningham said caustically, is for a reader to think that he “can appropriate [a book] as his own.” Cunningham’s ambition as a poet was to disappoint the reader in this expectation:

He wanted him to know that this was his poem, not yours; these were his circumstances, not yours; and these were the structures of thought by which he had penetrated them.

Every written text belongs to its author, not to you. This proposition, I realize, is sadly anachronistic. It sounds like an admonition to thrift and chastity. It paddles against the current of the times. Michel Foucault has taught us, after all, that the author is an impediment to freedom — that he is not really a person at all (who is owed respect), but merely a “certain functional principle by which, in our culture, one limits, excludes, and chooses. . . .” Remove the author, Roland Barthes urges, and you remove all limitations upon the text.

The truth is otherwise. Remove the author and all you do is to remove every restraint upon Narcissistic Reading Disorder. To read an author is to read someone different from ourselves. Reading is not a means of self-affirmation, but of self-denial. Any book that is any good challenges its readers: This is so, isn’t it? Did you know this? Have you considered that? Hanson gives a marvelous account of the late Christopher Hitchens, a writer we both admired despite his various contradictions and occasional cruelties: “[H]e achieved what the Roman student of rhetoric, Quintilian, once called variatio, the ability to mix up words and sentences and not bore,” Hanson says. But surely Hitchens’s appeal is more immediate than that. With Hitchens, the challenge is constant. He never lets you get away with a lazy reflection, because he never let himself get away with a lazy reflection. He demands that you think about things his way, and if you find that unpleasant — well, what do you think?

Hence reading is self-mastery, because the self (and its affirmations) are held in check while the author (and his structures of thought) are fully attended to. True diversity in literature would be to read authors in circumstances as different from our own as possible, because we might then imagine ourselves as different than we are — not the creature of circumstances, but their master. Reading is fundamental, all right: to a person’s ethical development. Umberto Eco, the Italian postmodernist thinker and novelist, explains in an interview:

The ethical has to do with human behavior; it’s not necessarily related to good and evil. When I read Madame Bovary I ask myself: what would I do in a similar situation? Would I trust Leon, who tells me that he loves me? . . . If I were Ringo in Stagecoach, would I have escaped with Dallas upon reaching the city, or would I have set out to take revenge on my enemies? This is what ethics is about. . . . Every work of fiction is a story of human conduct, and the reader would have to be a monster in order not to see the deeds which the work presents as possible acts of his own.

If reading is the key to self-mastery, fiction is the master key. Those like Hanson and Hitchens, who invite disagreement, are good too. But fiction demands that you either identify with the characters’ decisions or distance yourself from them, and this has a powerful effect. In doing so you shape your own moral experience. Although it may seem to be far removed from the center of the culture right now, fiction remains the best form of reading — the single best way to achieve all of reading’s goods.

Yesterday, in his blog Works and Days at PJ Media, the classical historian Victor Davis Hanson asked why anyone should read anymore. He rehearsed several good reasons (reading is mental exercise, it renews the language that social media zaps into an “instant bland hot cereal,” it reverses the intellectual regress that seems to accompany technological progress) before arriving at what strikes me as the soundest reason of all. “[S]peaking and writing well are not just the DSL lines of modern civilization,” Hanson concluded, “but also the keys to self-mastery. . . .” He hurried on to talk about upholding the standards of culture, saying no more about self-mastery. In passing, though, Hanson put his finger on the reason for what Ben Jonson, four centuries ago, called a “mul­ti­plicity of read­ing.” It “maketh a full man,” Jonson said.

That’s not the conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom is that reading leads not to self-mastery, but to self-affirmation. Some such view stands behind the nonprofit labors of Reading Is Fundamental, the children’s literacy organization:

Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.

What follows from this view is that “nonwhite readers” need to “find their mirrors.” They cannot hope to glimpse themselves and their circumstances in “white” books. Thus the call for “diversity” in literature — different groups require different “mirrors” for self-affirmation.

But what if this is exactly backwards? Hanson thinks so: “In his treatise on old age and again in the Pro Archia,” he observes, “Cicero made the argument that learning gives us a common bond.” Cicero is unlikely, however, to convince those who believe that young readers will only feel “part of the larger human experience” if their own smaller experience is affirmed first.

What if both arguments are wrong? What if both the reader hoping for a common bond and the reader in search of self-affirmation are making the same mistake? The mistake, as the poet and literary scholar J. V. Cunningham said caustically, is for a reader to think that he “can appropriate [a book] as his own.” Cunningham’s ambition as a poet was to disappoint the reader in this expectation:

He wanted him to know that this was his poem, not yours; these were his circumstances, not yours; and these were the structures of thought by which he had penetrated them.

Every written text belongs to its author, not to you. This proposition, I realize, is sadly anachronistic. It sounds like an admonition to thrift and chastity. It paddles against the current of the times. Michel Foucault has taught us, after all, that the author is an impediment to freedom — that he is not really a person at all (who is owed respect), but merely a “certain functional principle by which, in our culture, one limits, excludes, and chooses. . . .” Remove the author, Roland Barthes urges, and you remove all limitations upon the text.

The truth is otherwise. Remove the author and all you do is to remove every restraint upon Narcissistic Reading Disorder. To read an author is to read someone different from ourselves. Reading is not a means of self-affirmation, but of self-denial. Any book that is any good challenges its readers: This is so, isn’t it? Did you know this? Have you considered that? Hanson gives a marvelous account of the late Christopher Hitchens, a writer we both admired despite his various contradictions and occasional cruelties: “[H]e achieved what the Roman student of rhetoric, Quintilian, once called variatio, the ability to mix up words and sentences and not bore,” Hanson says. But surely Hitchens’s appeal is more immediate than that. With Hitchens, the challenge is constant. He never lets you get away with a lazy reflection, because he never let himself get away with a lazy reflection. He demands that you think about things his way, and if you find that unpleasant — well, what do you think?

Hence reading is self-mastery, because the self (and its affirmations) are held in check while the author (and his structures of thought) are fully attended to. True diversity in literature would be to read authors in circumstances as different from our own as possible, because we might then imagine ourselves as different than we are — not the creature of circumstances, but their master. Reading is fundamental, all right: to a person’s ethical development. Umberto Eco, the Italian postmodernist thinker and novelist, explains in an interview:

The ethical has to do with human behavior; it’s not necessarily related to good and evil. When I read Madame Bovary I ask myself: what would I do in a similar situation? Would I trust Leon, who tells me that he loves me? . . . If I were Ringo in Stagecoach, would I have escaped with Dallas upon reaching the city, or would I have set out to take revenge on my enemies? This is what ethics is about. . . . Every work of fiction is a story of human conduct, and the reader would have to be a monster in order not to see the deeds which the work presents as possible acts of his own.

If reading is the key to self-mastery, fiction is the master key. Those like Hanson and Hitchens, who invite disagreement, are good too. But fiction demands that you either identify with the characters’ decisions or distance yourself from them, and this has a powerful effect. In doing so you shape your own moral experience. Although it may seem to be far removed from the center of the culture right now, fiction remains the best form of reading — the single best way to achieve all of reading’s goods.

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The Slap Heard Round the World

It is amazing that the political revolution now sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa was started by a 26-year-old unemployed Tunisian man who self-immolated.

On December 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a university graduate whose fruits-and-vegetables market stand was confiscated by police because it had no permit, tried to yank back his apples. He was slapped in the face by a female municipal inspector and eventually beaten by her colleagues. His later appeals were ignored. Humiliated, he drenched himself in paint thinner and set himself on fire. He died on January 4.

That incident was the spark that set ablaze the revolution that overthrew President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia for more than two decades — and that, in turn, spread to Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign of power is about to end. Anti-government protests are also happening in Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, and elsewhere. It’s hard to tell where all this will end; but how it began may rank among the more extraordinary hinge moments in history. It may come to be known as the Slap Heard Round the World.

How hopeful or fearful one feels about the unfolding events in Egypt depends in large measure on which revolutionary model one believes applies to this situation. Is it the French, Russian, or Iranian revolution, which ended with the guillotine, gulags, and an Islamic theocracy; or the American Revolution and what happened in the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia, Chile, and Argentina, authoritarian regimes that made a relatively smooth transition to self-government? Or is it something entirely different? Here it’s worth bearing in mind the counsel of Henry Kissinger, who wrote, “History is not … a cookbook offering pretested recipes. It teaches by analogy, not by maxims. It can illuminate the consequences of actions in comparable situations, yet each generation must discover for itself what situations are in fact comparable.”

Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that the driving force of events in Egypt are tied to the universal human desire for liberty and free elections, for an end to political corruption and oppression. What the 2002 Arab Human Development Report called a “freedom deficit” in the Middle East is at the core of the unrest. Events seem to be vindicating those who said that siding with the forces of “stability” [read: dictatorships] rather than reform was unwise and ultimately unsustainable. At some point the lid would blow. Now it has. Read More

It is amazing that the political revolution now sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa was started by a 26-year-old unemployed Tunisian man who self-immolated.

On December 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a university graduate whose fruits-and-vegetables market stand was confiscated by police because it had no permit, tried to yank back his apples. He was slapped in the face by a female municipal inspector and eventually beaten by her colleagues. His later appeals were ignored. Humiliated, he drenched himself in paint thinner and set himself on fire. He died on January 4.

That incident was the spark that set ablaze the revolution that overthrew President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia for more than two decades — and that, in turn, spread to Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign of power is about to end. Anti-government protests are also happening in Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, and elsewhere. It’s hard to tell where all this will end; but how it began may rank among the more extraordinary hinge moments in history. It may come to be known as the Slap Heard Round the World.

How hopeful or fearful one feels about the unfolding events in Egypt depends in large measure on which revolutionary model one believes applies to this situation. Is it the French, Russian, or Iranian revolution, which ended with the guillotine, gulags, and an Islamic theocracy; or the American Revolution and what happened in the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia, Chile, and Argentina, authoritarian regimes that made a relatively smooth transition to self-government? Or is it something entirely different? Here it’s worth bearing in mind the counsel of Henry Kissinger, who wrote, “History is not … a cookbook offering pretested recipes. It teaches by analogy, not by maxims. It can illuminate the consequences of actions in comparable situations, yet each generation must discover for itself what situations are in fact comparable.”

Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that the driving force of events in Egypt are tied to the universal human desire for liberty and free elections, for an end to political corruption and oppression. What the 2002 Arab Human Development Report called a “freedom deficit” in the Middle East is at the core of the unrest. Events seem to be vindicating those who said that siding with the forces of “stability” [read: dictatorships] rather than reform was unwise and ultimately unsustainable. At some point the lid would blow. Now it has.

The danger is that groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, which is hostile to Israel and close to Hamas, hijacks the revolution. The goal of U.S policy must therefore be to influence this revolution, to the degree we can, in a way that advances U.S. interests and American ideals. This means taking an active role, both publicly and behind the scenes, in support of those who stand for liberal democracy (for more, see here).

The hour has grown quite late. As Max Boot points out, the equivocation of the Obama administration needs to end. Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading Egyptian dissident who appears to be rapidly gaining power, is right when he said the United States is “losing credibility by the day” by its support for the Egyptian dictator. Mr. Mubarak is, politically speaking, a Dead Man Walking. There is still time, but not much time, for the president to get on the right side of this revolution and the right side of history. Secretary of State Clinton’s comments yesterday, in which she called for an “orderly transition” to a representative government, were certainly an improvement from where the administration was last week, when she was assuring the world of the staying power of Mr. Mubarak and Vice President Biden was declaring, against three decades of evidence, that the Egyptian president was not a dictator.

Having worked in three administrations and in the White House during a series of crises, I have some sympathy for how difficult it is to navigate through roiling waters, when one has to act on incomplete information in the midst of chaotic and constantly changing events, the outcome of which is impossible to know. In that respect, the Obama administration deserves some empathy. It’s never as easy to guide events when you’re in government as it is to critique events when you’re outside of government.

Still, as my former colleague William Inboden has written, it seems to me that the Obama administration can be held responsible for two important errors: (a) its failure to anticipate what is happening in Egypt and prepare contingency plans. and (b) its neglect of human rights, democracy, and economic reform in Egypt for the previous two years. “These failures should be front and center in any post-mortem policy review,” Professor Inboden writes. “The Mubarak regime’s brittleness and Egypt’s stagnation have long been apparent to many observers.” But not, apparently, to the Obama administration, which seems to have been caught completely off guard. If the spark that set the region afire was impossible to anticipate, the dry tinder of the region was not.

One Arab nation that so far hasn’t been convulsed by the political revolution now sweeping the Middle East is Iraq — the one Arab nation whose government is legitimate, the produce of free elections and political compromise, and that has the consent of the people. When it came to Iraqi democracy, most of the foreign-policy establishment assured us that self-government there could never take root, that Iraq would simply be a pawn of Iran, that the ethnic divisions in Iraq were too deep to overcome, and that (as Joe Biden argued at the time) the only solution was partition. At this stage, it’s reasonable to conclude that these judgments were quite wrong. And while one can certainly debate whether the Iraq war was worth the blood, treasure, and opportunities it cost, it appears as if the Egyptian people, and not only the Egyptian people, are longing for what the people of Iraq have embraced: self-government. It isn’t perfect by any means — but for the Arab Middle East, it is a model for other nations to aspire.

(h/t: Victor Davis Hanson)

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Morning Commentary

So how’s that “reset” with Russia going? Turns out the U.S.’s light criticism of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s six-year prison sentence last week did little to faze the Kremlin. Russian police arrested 130 protesters during a New Year’s Eve demonstration against the Khodorkovsky verdict and the country’s prohibition of free assembly.

Greece and the state of California have two things in common — spiraling debt and an unwillingness to take responsibility for it. According to Victor Davis Hanson, it’s no coincidence that both populations can’t stop railing against “them” — the others who apparently created the financial messes Greece and California now face. Writes Hanson: “Oz is over with and the Greeks are furious at ‘them.’ Furious in the sense that everyone must be blamed except themselves. So they protest and demonstrate that they do not wish to stop borrowing money to sustain a lifestyle that they have not earned—but do not wish to cut ties either with their EU beneficiaries and go it alone as in the 1970s. So they rage against reality.”

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Jamie Kirchick calls out Julian Assange for leaking information that has served only to weaken our democracy-supporting allies, such as Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai: “Which leads us back to WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange, who lacks any appreciation for the subtleties of international statecraft, many of which are not at all devious. If Mr. Assange were genuinely committed to democracy, as he claims, he would reveal the minutes of Mr. Mugabe’s war cabinet, or the private musings of the Chinese Politburo that has sustained the Zimbabwean dictator for over three decades.”

Is Obama now cribbing speech tips from the National Review? Bill Kristol has the scoop on the president’s sudden appreciation for American exceptionalism.

With a new year comes a whole host of brand new state laws you may have already unwittingly broken. If you’re from California, check out Mark Hemingway’s post at the Washington Examiner — he has saved you the time of going through the Golden State’s 725 new laws by highlighting the ones that will probably irk you the most.

The incoming Republican chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, told Ed Henry on CNN yesterday that he won’t investigate whether President Obama offered Joe Sestak a position in the administration in exchange for dropping out of the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania last year: “That’s — it was wrong if it was done in the Bush administration. It’s wrong in the Obama administration. But remember, the focus of our committee has always been, and you look at all the work I’ve done over the past four years on the oversight committee; it has been consistently about looking for waste, fraud and abuse. That’s the vast majority of what we do,” Issa told Henry. Issa had previously called the Sestak incident “Obama’s Watergate” and said that the Obama administration may have committed “up to three felonies” by making the deal.

So how’s that “reset” with Russia going? Turns out the U.S.’s light criticism of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s six-year prison sentence last week did little to faze the Kremlin. Russian police arrested 130 protesters during a New Year’s Eve demonstration against the Khodorkovsky verdict and the country’s prohibition of free assembly.

Greece and the state of California have two things in common — spiraling debt and an unwillingness to take responsibility for it. According to Victor Davis Hanson, it’s no coincidence that both populations can’t stop railing against “them” — the others who apparently created the financial messes Greece and California now face. Writes Hanson: “Oz is over with and the Greeks are furious at ‘them.’ Furious in the sense that everyone must be blamed except themselves. So they protest and demonstrate that they do not wish to stop borrowing money to sustain a lifestyle that they have not earned—but do not wish to cut ties either with their EU beneficiaries and go it alone as in the 1970s. So they rage against reality.”

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Jamie Kirchick calls out Julian Assange for leaking information that has served only to weaken our democracy-supporting allies, such as Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai: “Which leads us back to WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange, who lacks any appreciation for the subtleties of international statecraft, many of which are not at all devious. If Mr. Assange were genuinely committed to democracy, as he claims, he would reveal the minutes of Mr. Mugabe’s war cabinet, or the private musings of the Chinese Politburo that has sustained the Zimbabwean dictator for over three decades.”

Is Obama now cribbing speech tips from the National Review? Bill Kristol has the scoop on the president’s sudden appreciation for American exceptionalism.

With a new year comes a whole host of brand new state laws you may have already unwittingly broken. If you’re from California, check out Mark Hemingway’s post at the Washington Examiner — he has saved you the time of going through the Golden State’s 725 new laws by highlighting the ones that will probably irk you the most.

The incoming Republican chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, told Ed Henry on CNN yesterday that he won’t investigate whether President Obama offered Joe Sestak a position in the administration in exchange for dropping out of the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania last year: “That’s — it was wrong if it was done in the Bush administration. It’s wrong in the Obama administration. But remember, the focus of our committee has always been, and you look at all the work I’ve done over the past four years on the oversight committee; it has been consistently about looking for waste, fraud and abuse. That’s the vast majority of what we do,” Issa told Henry. Issa had previously called the Sestak incident “Obama’s Watergate” and said that the Obama administration may have committed “up to three felonies” by making the deal.

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Part 2: Immigration and the Golden State

In this post I continue my responses to Peter Robinson’s thought-provoking questions about the degree to which immigration has contributed to California’s current predicament (e.g., fiscal ruin, economic stagnation, political dysfunction). Peter’s second question concerns the political impact on the Republican party. He asks:

Q:  There’s plenty of evidence that, as Hispanics move into the middle class, they begin voting Republican, following the same pattern as previous immigrant groups. In California, though, the Hispanics that do indeed join the middle class are always hugely outnumbered as the influx of poor Mexicans continues — and, as these recent arrivals begin voting, they vote overwhelmingly Democratic. The state that gave us Reagan has now become dark blue. … With California out of play, the GOP stands at a permanent disadvantage in presidential politics.  Isn’t all that too high a price to pay for loose immigration policies?

Let’s break this down into legal and illegal immigration. No critic of lax efforts to cut down on voter fraud has been more ferocious than I. But, honestly, I don’t believe that there are huge numbers of illegal immigrants who flock to the polls. And if there were (as well as for other reasons, which I have amplified in other writings on Obama Justice Department), we need to clean house at the DOJ. One way to start would be to make sure the Department, contrary to the directions of Obama appointees, enforces Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states to clean up their voter rolls.

But I think we’re principally talking about Hispanic citizens. Here, the GOP’s problem, I would suggest, is entirely one of its own making. If a party cannot connect with and make its case to a large segment of the electorate, which actually shares many of its fundamental values (e.g., family, the sanctity of life, economic opportunity), there is something wrong with the party. (Let Obama blame or write off voters.)

The argument that “We’ve tried, but nothing works” is a cop-out. (I’m not persuaded by the argument that John McCain’s inability to attract Hispanic voters in 2008 is proof of this. McCain essentially reversed course on immigration in the campaign. Moreover, McCain couldn’t even connect with New Englanders.) In Virginia,  now Gov. Bob McDonnell told me in late 2008 that Republicans had done a poor job of explaining that it is the illegal part they object to — not the immigrant part. And, in the 2009 campaign, he went to Hispanic communities explaining why conservative positions on education, family, low taxes, reasonable regulation, crime, etc. are good for them. If Republicans tried that over an extended period of time, continued to demonstrate that they are a diverse party (Marco Rubio and other Hispanic candidates and officials help in this regard), and tamped down on the over-the-top anti-immigrant rhetoric, they might improve their standing. “We don’t know that!” critics say. True, but why not give it a shot? (Given current polling data, this might be an opportune time to start.)

The question also touches on comprehensive immigration reform. If we legalize them all, the argument goes, then they will stream to the polls and the GOP will be toast. My response is two-fold: 1) see the preceding paragraph and 2) let’s consider what would happen if many of the current immigrants were legalized. For that discussion, let’s turn to Peter’s final question:

Q.  The 2.6 million immigrants in California illegally consume hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public services each year.  They pay sales taxes—but only sales taxes.  On balance, isn’t it likely that they represent an economic drag on the entire state?  “[T]he several million illegal aliens in the state,” Victor Davis Hanson wrote recently, “might make California’s meltdown a little bit more severe than, say, Montana’s or Utah’s.” Isn’t Victor on to something?

Victor is always on to something! But as I discussed in Part 1, the picture is a bit more complicated than anti-immigration activists would have us believe. The data is mixed regarding the net cost-benefits at the state level. Moreover, there are some illegal immigrants who pay more than sales tax. Do they pay property taxes? Do they, if they’ve managed to get on a payroll, pay Social Security taxes (perhaps under a phony Social Security card)? Some do. I think that saying they act as a drag on the state goes too far. The data cited here and in Part 1 suggest that while state expenditures might be stressed, the overall economy benefits tremendously by immigrants.

Still, I’ll concede that in the short run, new, poor immigrants may use more social services than they pay for in taxes, as compared to the rest of the population. But then — Peter sees this coming — let’s figure out how to naturalize the vast majority of them and get them to start paying all their taxes into the system. Am I arguing for “amnesty”? Amnesty is a free pass. I favor allowing otherwise law-abiding immigrants who want to pay a fine, contribute their share to taxes, and go through background checks and a waiting period to legalize their status. Then they can begin to contribute fully to the coffers of California and every other state.

Comprehensive immigration reform would also entail serious border enforcement, temporary worker rules, and employer verification measures. The constant stream of “poor Mexicans” then would slow down. Then we could get down to the business of discussing appropriate levels of legal immigration and an increase in visas for skilled workers.

I come back to Peter’s basic query: Is immigration (legal and not) a significant factor in California’s mess? In my view it isn’t, especially in comparison to Californians’ enormous self-inflicted wounds (e.g., state constitutional chaos, misguided reforms, public-employee union corruption and excess). Certainly, we should should address the issue. We might get around to it if Obama ever started treating immigration reform as a serious policy matter instead of a political football.

In this post I continue my responses to Peter Robinson’s thought-provoking questions about the degree to which immigration has contributed to California’s current predicament (e.g., fiscal ruin, economic stagnation, political dysfunction). Peter’s second question concerns the political impact on the Republican party. He asks:

Q:  There’s plenty of evidence that, as Hispanics move into the middle class, they begin voting Republican, following the same pattern as previous immigrant groups. In California, though, the Hispanics that do indeed join the middle class are always hugely outnumbered as the influx of poor Mexicans continues — and, as these recent arrivals begin voting, they vote overwhelmingly Democratic. The state that gave us Reagan has now become dark blue. … With California out of play, the GOP stands at a permanent disadvantage in presidential politics.  Isn’t all that too high a price to pay for loose immigration policies?

Let’s break this down into legal and illegal immigration. No critic of lax efforts to cut down on voter fraud has been more ferocious than I. But, honestly, I don’t believe that there are huge numbers of illegal immigrants who flock to the polls. And if there were (as well as for other reasons, which I have amplified in other writings on Obama Justice Department), we need to clean house at the DOJ. One way to start would be to make sure the Department, contrary to the directions of Obama appointees, enforces Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states to clean up their voter rolls.

But I think we’re principally talking about Hispanic citizens. Here, the GOP’s problem, I would suggest, is entirely one of its own making. If a party cannot connect with and make its case to a large segment of the electorate, which actually shares many of its fundamental values (e.g., family, the sanctity of life, economic opportunity), there is something wrong with the party. (Let Obama blame or write off voters.)

The argument that “We’ve tried, but nothing works” is a cop-out. (I’m not persuaded by the argument that John McCain’s inability to attract Hispanic voters in 2008 is proof of this. McCain essentially reversed course on immigration in the campaign. Moreover, McCain couldn’t even connect with New Englanders.) In Virginia,  now Gov. Bob McDonnell told me in late 2008 that Republicans had done a poor job of explaining that it is the illegal part they object to — not the immigrant part. And, in the 2009 campaign, he went to Hispanic communities explaining why conservative positions on education, family, low taxes, reasonable regulation, crime, etc. are good for them. If Republicans tried that over an extended period of time, continued to demonstrate that they are a diverse party (Marco Rubio and other Hispanic candidates and officials help in this regard), and tamped down on the over-the-top anti-immigrant rhetoric, they might improve their standing. “We don’t know that!” critics say. True, but why not give it a shot? (Given current polling data, this might be an opportune time to start.)

The question also touches on comprehensive immigration reform. If we legalize them all, the argument goes, then they will stream to the polls and the GOP will be toast. My response is two-fold: 1) see the preceding paragraph and 2) let’s consider what would happen if many of the current immigrants were legalized. For that discussion, let’s turn to Peter’s final question:

Q.  The 2.6 million immigrants in California illegally consume hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public services each year.  They pay sales taxes—but only sales taxes.  On balance, isn’t it likely that they represent an economic drag on the entire state?  “[T]he several million illegal aliens in the state,” Victor Davis Hanson wrote recently, “might make California’s meltdown a little bit more severe than, say, Montana’s or Utah’s.” Isn’t Victor on to something?

Victor is always on to something! But as I discussed in Part 1, the picture is a bit more complicated than anti-immigration activists would have us believe. The data is mixed regarding the net cost-benefits at the state level. Moreover, there are some illegal immigrants who pay more than sales tax. Do they pay property taxes? Do they, if they’ve managed to get on a payroll, pay Social Security taxes (perhaps under a phony Social Security card)? Some do. I think that saying they act as a drag on the state goes too far. The data cited here and in Part 1 suggest that while state expenditures might be stressed, the overall economy benefits tremendously by immigrants.

Still, I’ll concede that in the short run, new, poor immigrants may use more social services than they pay for in taxes, as compared to the rest of the population. But then — Peter sees this coming — let’s figure out how to naturalize the vast majority of them and get them to start paying all their taxes into the system. Am I arguing for “amnesty”? Amnesty is a free pass. I favor allowing otherwise law-abiding immigrants who want to pay a fine, contribute their share to taxes, and go through background checks and a waiting period to legalize their status. Then they can begin to contribute fully to the coffers of California and every other state.

Comprehensive immigration reform would also entail serious border enforcement, temporary worker rules, and employer verification measures. The constant stream of “poor Mexicans” then would slow down. Then we could get down to the business of discussing appropriate levels of legal immigration and an increase in visas for skilled workers.

I come back to Peter’s basic query: Is immigration (legal and not) a significant factor in California’s mess? In my view it isn’t, especially in comparison to Californians’ enormous self-inflicted wounds (e.g., state constitutional chaos, misguided reforms, public-employee union corruption and excess). Certainly, we should should address the issue. We might get around to it if Obama ever started treating immigration reform as a serious policy matter instead of a political football.

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Whining About Whining

As the President and Vice President whine about the whining of their shrinking “base,” as being insufficiently appreciative of the superhuman efforts to confront our problems, they might remember the old saying that “in times like these, we should remember there have always been times like these.” Victor Davis Hanson writes that the problems Obama has faced have not, in fact, been worse than those that other presidents confronted as they entered the presidency:

A recession and 9/11 were not easy in 2001. And 18% interest, 18% inflation, 7% unemployment, and gas lines by 1981 greeted Reagan. Truman took over with a war … a wrecked Asia and Europe, a groundswell of communism, a climate of panic at home, and a soon to be nuclear Soviet Union … capped off soon by a war in Korea.

The President and Vice President might also reflect on the answer of the prior president, in his last press conference on January 12, 2009, when asked as to when Obama would feel the full impact of the presidency. Bush’s answer was “the minute he walks in the Oval Office,” but that:

… the phrase “burdens of the office” is overstated. You know, it’s kind of like, why me? Oh, the burdens, you know. Why did the financial collapse have to happen on my watch? It’s just — it’s pathetic, isn’t it, self-pity. And I don’t believe that President-Elect Obama will be full of self-pity. He will find — you know, your — the people that don’t like you, the critics, they’re pretty predictable. Sometimes the biggest disappointments will come from your so-called friends. And there will be disappointments, I promise you. He’ll be disappointed. On the other hand, the job is so exciting and so profound …

In Wisconsin yesterday, Obama repeated his constant refrain that he had arrived in Washington to “confront the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression” and blamed his current problems on an “opposition party … determined from the start to let us deal with the mess that they had done so much to create.”

And they figured, if we just sit on the sidelines and just say no and just throw bombs and let Obama and the Democrats deal with everything, they figured they might be able to prosper at the polls.

When politicians start whining about their fate and begin referring to themselves in the third person, it is a sign the campaign is not going well. Just ask Bob Dole, as Bob Dole might say.

As the President and Vice President whine about the whining of their shrinking “base,” as being insufficiently appreciative of the superhuman efforts to confront our problems, they might remember the old saying that “in times like these, we should remember there have always been times like these.” Victor Davis Hanson writes that the problems Obama has faced have not, in fact, been worse than those that other presidents confronted as they entered the presidency:

A recession and 9/11 were not easy in 2001. And 18% interest, 18% inflation, 7% unemployment, and gas lines by 1981 greeted Reagan. Truman took over with a war … a wrecked Asia and Europe, a groundswell of communism, a climate of panic at home, and a soon to be nuclear Soviet Union … capped off soon by a war in Korea.

The President and Vice President might also reflect on the answer of the prior president, in his last press conference on January 12, 2009, when asked as to when Obama would feel the full impact of the presidency. Bush’s answer was “the minute he walks in the Oval Office,” but that:

… the phrase “burdens of the office” is overstated. You know, it’s kind of like, why me? Oh, the burdens, you know. Why did the financial collapse have to happen on my watch? It’s just — it’s pathetic, isn’t it, self-pity. And I don’t believe that President-Elect Obama will be full of self-pity. He will find — you know, your — the people that don’t like you, the critics, they’re pretty predictable. Sometimes the biggest disappointments will come from your so-called friends. And there will be disappointments, I promise you. He’ll be disappointed. On the other hand, the job is so exciting and so profound …

In Wisconsin yesterday, Obama repeated his constant refrain that he had arrived in Washington to “confront the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression” and blamed his current problems on an “opposition party … determined from the start to let us deal with the mess that they had done so much to create.”

And they figured, if we just sit on the sidelines and just say no and just throw bombs and let Obama and the Democrats deal with everything, they figured they might be able to prosper at the polls.

When politicians start whining about their fate and begin referring to themselves in the third person, it is a sign the campaign is not going well. Just ask Bob Dole, as Bob Dole might say.

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“It Almost Seemed a Chore”

Military historian Victor Davis Hanson observes:

Obama warns against “open-ended wars,” as if they are almost animate things. But wars end, not when they reach a rational, previously agreed-upon expiration date, but usually when tough, specific wartime choices are made that lead to victory or end in defeat. One party must decide – for good or bad reasons – that it doesn’t want to fight to win, or simply doesn’t believe it has the resources for victory. To say that “open-ended wars” are undesirable is a banality that offers no guidance for these real-life choices. A better truism is that America should not fight wars it does not intend to win.

And indeed, it is more dangerous than banal. “War is hell” is a banality, but at least it is true. Obama’s aversion to open-ended wars is the ultimate expression of  his shortcomings as commander in chief. His predecessor refused, despite public clamoring, to put a stopwatch on our troops in Iraq. He understood that as president, he must convey resoluteness and commitment. He understood that the troops want more than the promise of VA benefits — they want to come home victorious. He understood that America’s greatness depends not on how many billions we can throw a statist projects but rather on the fact that we are willing to project and defend our values, give hope to the oppressed, stand by allies, and champion freedom.

Obama’s childlike desire to set arbitrary deadlines is both a sop to the left and indicative of his own annoyance with the money we’ve had to spend on wars. Yes, the latter is the price one pays for being a superpower and the leader of the Free World. Neither Ronald Reagan nor George W. Bush begrudged spending the money — for this was the most essential part of our budget, just as being commander in chief was the most important part of their job.

Hanson also notes: “[T]here was something bizarre about his entire Iraq speech — it was as if it were being delivered by an exhausted Obama factotum, rather than the animate Obama of old. So we got a flat Iraq/flat Afghanistan/flat hope-and-change recession address. It almost seemed a chore.” For Bush, foreign policy was his highest calling, whereas Obama made clear that domestic recovery was “my central responsibility” — an odd declaration in a foreign policy speech to be viewed closely by adversaries.

Despite recent polling results, we can’t have Bush back. We have this president instead, and we will have to muddle through as best we can.

Military historian Victor Davis Hanson observes:

Obama warns against “open-ended wars,” as if they are almost animate things. But wars end, not when they reach a rational, previously agreed-upon expiration date, but usually when tough, specific wartime choices are made that lead to victory or end in defeat. One party must decide – for good or bad reasons – that it doesn’t want to fight to win, or simply doesn’t believe it has the resources for victory. To say that “open-ended wars” are undesirable is a banality that offers no guidance for these real-life choices. A better truism is that America should not fight wars it does not intend to win.

And indeed, it is more dangerous than banal. “War is hell” is a banality, but at least it is true. Obama’s aversion to open-ended wars is the ultimate expression of  his shortcomings as commander in chief. His predecessor refused, despite public clamoring, to put a stopwatch on our troops in Iraq. He understood that as president, he must convey resoluteness and commitment. He understood that the troops want more than the promise of VA benefits — they want to come home victorious. He understood that America’s greatness depends not on how many billions we can throw a statist projects but rather on the fact that we are willing to project and defend our values, give hope to the oppressed, stand by allies, and champion freedom.

Obama’s childlike desire to set arbitrary deadlines is both a sop to the left and indicative of his own annoyance with the money we’ve had to spend on wars. Yes, the latter is the price one pays for being a superpower and the leader of the Free World. Neither Ronald Reagan nor George W. Bush begrudged spending the money — for this was the most essential part of our budget, just as being commander in chief was the most important part of their job.

Hanson also notes: “[T]here was something bizarre about his entire Iraq speech — it was as if it were being delivered by an exhausted Obama factotum, rather than the animate Obama of old. So we got a flat Iraq/flat Afghanistan/flat hope-and-change recession address. It almost seemed a chore.” For Bush, foreign policy was his highest calling, whereas Obama made clear that domestic recovery was “my central responsibility” — an odd declaration in a foreign policy speech to be viewed closely by adversaries.

Despite recent polling results, we can’t have Bush back. We have this president instead, and we will have to muddle through as best we can.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Mona Charen spots the Obama blather: “In the latest installment of politically correct, not to say Orwellian, language emanating from the Obama administration, the term ‘rogue states’ has been sidelined in favor of ‘outliers.’ . . .While they were reclassifying Iran and North Korea, the Obama administration, with spine of purest Jell-O, let it be known that the revised National Security Strategy will eschew references to ‘Islamic extremism,’ ‘jihad,’ ‘Islamic radicalism’ and other such terms.”

Michael Anton spots the Obami misleading us on the START treaty’s lack of linkage to our missile-defense development: “Now we have the worst of both worlds: a missile defense system designed not to defend against a Russian strike but nonetheless formally linked to Russia’s nuclear posture. Worse, the Russian foreign minister has hinted that his country may invoke the treaty’s otherwise standard withdrawal language if ‘the U.S. strategic missile defense begins to significantly affect the efficiency of Russian strategic nuclear forces.’ Given that the Russians publicly insist (though cannot possibly believe) that virtually anything we do on missile defense affects their strategic forces, this was not encouraging news.”

John Fund spots the fallout from ObamaCare in Michigan: “The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a culturally conservative area that viewed most aspects of the health care bill with suspicion. In 2000 and 2004, the district went easily for George W. Bush, and Barack Obama barely managed 50% of the vote there in 2008. Mr. Stupak is known to have taken a private poll of his district since his health care vote, and his retirement announcement is a likely indication that he feared he might lose to a Republican challenger this fall.Whatever political bounce Democrats thought they would get from passing health care isn’t showing up in national polls. In districts like Mr. Stupak’s health care appears to be a distinct liability.”

Republicans spot another 2012 contender: Rick Perry.

The National Republican Campaign Committee spots another target: “The NRCC dumped nearly $200K into the special election contest to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA 12) late Friday, according to FEC filings. The total includes nearly $180K for TV ads, and $12K for a poll. It’s the first independent expenditure for either party for the May 18 contest, and follows the DCCC’s $47K investment in the HI-01 special earlier this week.”

Ray Takeyh spots the danger in the Obami assault on Israel: “[S]hould Tehran perceive fissures and divisions in U.S.-Israeli alliance, it is likely to further harden its nuclear stance. . . . Fulminations aside, Iranian leaders take Israeli threats seriously and are at pains to assert their retaliatory options. It is here that the shape and tone of the U.S.-Israeli alliance matters most. Should the clerical oligarchs sense divisions in that alliance, they can assure themselves that a beleaguered Israel cannot possibly strike Iran while at odds with its superpower patron. Such perceptions cheapen Israeli deterrence and diminish the potency of the West’s remaining sticks.” One has to ask: why is Obama systematically dismantling any credible threats to the mullahs?

Can you spot Obama’s “bounce” from passing ObamaCare? Me neither –  in Gallup 47 approve, 48 percent disapprove of his performance.

Victor Davis Hanson spots the likely results of Obama’s kick-your-friends foreign policy: “Karzai or Allawi will look more to Iran, which will soon become the regional and nuclear hegemon of the Middle East. Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics had better mend fences with Russia. The EU should finally start on that much-ballyhooed all-European response force. Taiwan, the Philippines, and South Korea should strengthen ties with China. Buffer states in South America had better make amends with a dictatorial, armed, and aggressive Chavez. Israel should accept that the U.S. no longer will provide support for it at the UN, chide the Arab states to cool their anti-Israeli proclamations, remind the Europeans not to overdo their popular anti-Israeli rhetoric, or warn radical Palestinians not to start another intifada. (In other words, it’s open season to say or do anything one wishes with Israel.)”

Mona Charen spots the Obama blather: “In the latest installment of politically correct, not to say Orwellian, language emanating from the Obama administration, the term ‘rogue states’ has been sidelined in favor of ‘outliers.’ . . .While they were reclassifying Iran and North Korea, the Obama administration, with spine of purest Jell-O, let it be known that the revised National Security Strategy will eschew references to ‘Islamic extremism,’ ‘jihad,’ ‘Islamic radicalism’ and other such terms.”

Michael Anton spots the Obami misleading us on the START treaty’s lack of linkage to our missile-defense development: “Now we have the worst of both worlds: a missile defense system designed not to defend against a Russian strike but nonetheless formally linked to Russia’s nuclear posture. Worse, the Russian foreign minister has hinted that his country may invoke the treaty’s otherwise standard withdrawal language if ‘the U.S. strategic missile defense begins to significantly affect the efficiency of Russian strategic nuclear forces.’ Given that the Russians publicly insist (though cannot possibly believe) that virtually anything we do on missile defense affects their strategic forces, this was not encouraging news.”

John Fund spots the fallout from ObamaCare in Michigan: “The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a culturally conservative area that viewed most aspects of the health care bill with suspicion. In 2000 and 2004, the district went easily for George W. Bush, and Barack Obama barely managed 50% of the vote there in 2008. Mr. Stupak is known to have taken a private poll of his district since his health care vote, and his retirement announcement is a likely indication that he feared he might lose to a Republican challenger this fall.Whatever political bounce Democrats thought they would get from passing health care isn’t showing up in national polls. In districts like Mr. Stupak’s health care appears to be a distinct liability.”

Republicans spot another 2012 contender: Rick Perry.

The National Republican Campaign Committee spots another target: “The NRCC dumped nearly $200K into the special election contest to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA 12) late Friday, according to FEC filings. The total includes nearly $180K for TV ads, and $12K for a poll. It’s the first independent expenditure for either party for the May 18 contest, and follows the DCCC’s $47K investment in the HI-01 special earlier this week.”

Ray Takeyh spots the danger in the Obami assault on Israel: “[S]hould Tehran perceive fissures and divisions in U.S.-Israeli alliance, it is likely to further harden its nuclear stance. . . . Fulminations aside, Iranian leaders take Israeli threats seriously and are at pains to assert their retaliatory options. It is here that the shape and tone of the U.S.-Israeli alliance matters most. Should the clerical oligarchs sense divisions in that alliance, they can assure themselves that a beleaguered Israel cannot possibly strike Iran while at odds with its superpower patron. Such perceptions cheapen Israeli deterrence and diminish the potency of the West’s remaining sticks.” One has to ask: why is Obama systematically dismantling any credible threats to the mullahs?

Can you spot Obama’s “bounce” from passing ObamaCare? Me neither –  in Gallup 47 approve, 48 percent disapprove of his performance.

Victor Davis Hanson spots the likely results of Obama’s kick-your-friends foreign policy: “Karzai or Allawi will look more to Iran, which will soon become the regional and nuclear hegemon of the Middle East. Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics had better mend fences with Russia. The EU should finally start on that much-ballyhooed all-European response force. Taiwan, the Philippines, and South Korea should strengthen ties with China. Buffer states in South America had better make amends with a dictatorial, armed, and aggressive Chavez. Israel should accept that the U.S. no longer will provide support for it at the UN, chide the Arab states to cool their anti-Israeli proclamations, remind the Europeans not to overdo their popular anti-Israeli rhetoric, or warn radical Palestinians not to start another intifada. (In other words, it’s open season to say or do anything one wishes with Israel.)”

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Blaming Bush — Enough Yet?

Victor Davis Hanson detects a lessening of the Blame Bush fetish that has gripped the Obami. Why? He postulates:

Two reasons: 1) Obama has copied Bush on almost all the anti-terrorism protocols that worked, such as tribunals, renditions, Patriot Act, Iraq, Afghanistan, Predators, wiretaps and intercepts. And to the extent he has not — a trial for KSM in New York, a witch hunt against the former CIA interrogators, Miranda rights for the would-be Christmas Day bomber, proposed closing of Guantanamo — the people wonder: what in the hell is this guy doing? 2) Obama turned Bush’s misdemeanors, like deficits, borrowing, and new government programs, into felonies. So in comparison, Bush doesn’t look quite so bad now: next time Obama plays the “Bush Did it” card, the public will think either “Thank God” or “Yeah, but not as badly as you did”.

I’m not so confident that the Bush blaming is over, though Hanson aptly explains why it should be. And there are other reasons why Obama should abandon this tactic.

In addition to the grounds Hanson lists, there is another, more fundamental reason why Obama should stop: it’s embarrassing. It simply reinforces the meme that Obama isn’t very presidential. Petulant? Certainly. Condescending? Definitely. But presidential – meaning above-the fray, decisive, appealing to the better angels of our nature, and careful to use only the best and most accurate data? Hardly.

George W. Bush’s utter lack of criticism of Obama (to the frustration of many conservatives and loyal members of his administration) simply reinforces the smallness of the current Oval Office occupant. Perhaps Bush’s criticism would have fallen on deaf ears because the public was not yet ready to hear from him. But whatever the motive for the silence, it has certainly reinforced the contrast between the two presidents: one has moved on, and the other repeatedly evokes the past to excuse and justify his own shortcomings.

Finally, Obama ran as the transformational president who would sweep aside the past and conduct business in a whole new way. By blaming Bush, he is admitting that he has been spectacularly unsuccessful in changing much of anything. He in essence concedes by blaming Bush that he is trapped in the third Bush term. But the least changey thing a president can do is blame others, especially when he enjoys large congressional majorities and a more forgiving mainstream media than most presidents encounter.

We’ll see if Hanson is right and if Obama gives up the Bush fixation. But if he does, who will he blame for the crummy state of his presidency? Maybe a staff shake-up is in order.

Victor Davis Hanson detects a lessening of the Blame Bush fetish that has gripped the Obami. Why? He postulates:

Two reasons: 1) Obama has copied Bush on almost all the anti-terrorism protocols that worked, such as tribunals, renditions, Patriot Act, Iraq, Afghanistan, Predators, wiretaps and intercepts. And to the extent he has not — a trial for KSM in New York, a witch hunt against the former CIA interrogators, Miranda rights for the would-be Christmas Day bomber, proposed closing of Guantanamo — the people wonder: what in the hell is this guy doing? 2) Obama turned Bush’s misdemeanors, like deficits, borrowing, and new government programs, into felonies. So in comparison, Bush doesn’t look quite so bad now: next time Obama plays the “Bush Did it” card, the public will think either “Thank God” or “Yeah, but not as badly as you did”.

I’m not so confident that the Bush blaming is over, though Hanson aptly explains why it should be. And there are other reasons why Obama should abandon this tactic.

In addition to the grounds Hanson lists, there is another, more fundamental reason why Obama should stop: it’s embarrassing. It simply reinforces the meme that Obama isn’t very presidential. Petulant? Certainly. Condescending? Definitely. But presidential – meaning above-the fray, decisive, appealing to the better angels of our nature, and careful to use only the best and most accurate data? Hardly.

George W. Bush’s utter lack of criticism of Obama (to the frustration of many conservatives and loyal members of his administration) simply reinforces the smallness of the current Oval Office occupant. Perhaps Bush’s criticism would have fallen on deaf ears because the public was not yet ready to hear from him. But whatever the motive for the silence, it has certainly reinforced the contrast between the two presidents: one has moved on, and the other repeatedly evokes the past to excuse and justify his own shortcomings.

Finally, Obama ran as the transformational president who would sweep aside the past and conduct business in a whole new way. By blaming Bush, he is admitting that he has been spectacularly unsuccessful in changing much of anything. He in essence concedes by blaming Bush that he is trapped in the third Bush term. But the least changey thing a president can do is blame others, especially when he enjoys large congressional majorities and a more forgiving mainstream media than most presidents encounter.

We’ll see if Hanson is right and if Obama gives up the Bush fixation. But if he does, who will he blame for the crummy state of his presidency? Maybe a staff shake-up is in order.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not a report the Obami want to read: “The Fed said the unemployment rate this year could hover between 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent and between 8.2 percent and 8.5 percent next year. By 2012, the rate will range between 6.6 percent and 7.5 percent, it predicted. Those forecasts are little changed from projections the Fed released in late November. But they suggest unemployment will remain elevated heading into this year’s congressional elections and the presidential election in 2012. A more normal unemployment rate would be between 5.5 percent and 6 percent.”

Not a poll they want to see: “Just 28% of U.S. voters say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This marks the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course since one year ago and appears to signal the end of a slight burst of confidence at the first of this year.”

Not a view they want to hear (from Victor Davis Hanson): “Given that the people apparently don’t want bigger deficits, more stimulus, statist health care, cap and trade, or ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform, and given that the most influential members of the Obama administration think the people either do or should want those things, we are apparently left with blaming George Bush, or self-righteously blaming the people for their stupidity, selfishness, brainwashing, or racism. Yet all of those assumptions only exacerbate the problem, and if continually voiced will turn a mid-term correction into an abject disaster for Democrats.”

Not a prediction they want to consider: “If the midterm election was held tomorrow, Republicans would retake control of Congress, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said Wednesday. … Voters are angry about the economy and the Democrats’ infighting in Congress, Greenberg said. ‘Right now they are just interested in punishing Democrats for not getting the job done, and in some cases getting it done badly. They [are] relishing an opportunity to bloody the Democrats.’”

James Capretta doesn’t think much of the debt commission. For starters, ObamaCare is still on the table. (“The primary reason for long-term budgetary imbalance is out-of-control spending on health-care entitlements. And so what would the Democratic health-care bills do? Stand up another runaway health-care entitlement, of course.”) Moreover, the “fundamental problem here is lack of presidential leadership. If the president thinks the long-term budget outlook is a serious threat to economic prosperity, he needs to do more than talk about it and punt the solution to a commission.”

Former GOP congressman and election statistical guru Tom Davis says there is a potential for four Republican House seat pickups in his home state of Virginia: “He noted that an internal poll in his old congressional district shows Connolly running neck-and-neck with Republican Pat Herrity, a Fairfax County supervisor, one of the leading candidates to win the GOP nomination. Davis also pointed to Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) as an enticing target, asserting that he put his seat in play by supporting a cap-and-trade energy bill that is highly unpopular with constituents in his coal-producing district.”

Zachery Kouwe resigns from the New York Times in a plagiarism scandal. Maureen Dowd keeps chugging along.

Democratic senatorial campaign committee chairman Bob Menendez is getting blamed for the Democrats’ tailspin. But is it really his fault? Well, “no one claims Menendez is entirely to blame for Martha Coakley’s humiliating defeat in Massachusetts, the retirements of Bayh and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan and Beau Biden’s decision to skip the Delaware Senate race. They cite any number of external factors that have dimmed the party’s prospects: the tanking popularity of President Barack Obama and his policies, the inevitability of Democratic letdown after four years of historic successes and, above all, the lousy economy.” But he’s going to get slammed because the alternative is blaming Obama.

Not a report the Obami want to read: “The Fed said the unemployment rate this year could hover between 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent and between 8.2 percent and 8.5 percent next year. By 2012, the rate will range between 6.6 percent and 7.5 percent, it predicted. Those forecasts are little changed from projections the Fed released in late November. But they suggest unemployment will remain elevated heading into this year’s congressional elections and the presidential election in 2012. A more normal unemployment rate would be between 5.5 percent and 6 percent.”

Not a poll they want to see: “Just 28% of U.S. voters say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This marks the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course since one year ago and appears to signal the end of a slight burst of confidence at the first of this year.”

Not a view they want to hear (from Victor Davis Hanson): “Given that the people apparently don’t want bigger deficits, more stimulus, statist health care, cap and trade, or ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform, and given that the most influential members of the Obama administration think the people either do or should want those things, we are apparently left with blaming George Bush, or self-righteously blaming the people for their stupidity, selfishness, brainwashing, or racism. Yet all of those assumptions only exacerbate the problem, and if continually voiced will turn a mid-term correction into an abject disaster for Democrats.”

Not a prediction they want to consider: “If the midterm election was held tomorrow, Republicans would retake control of Congress, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said Wednesday. … Voters are angry about the economy and the Democrats’ infighting in Congress, Greenberg said. ‘Right now they are just interested in punishing Democrats for not getting the job done, and in some cases getting it done badly. They [are] relishing an opportunity to bloody the Democrats.’”

James Capretta doesn’t think much of the debt commission. For starters, ObamaCare is still on the table. (“The primary reason for long-term budgetary imbalance is out-of-control spending on health-care entitlements. And so what would the Democratic health-care bills do? Stand up another runaway health-care entitlement, of course.”) Moreover, the “fundamental problem here is lack of presidential leadership. If the president thinks the long-term budget outlook is a serious threat to economic prosperity, he needs to do more than talk about it and punt the solution to a commission.”

Former GOP congressman and election statistical guru Tom Davis says there is a potential for four Republican House seat pickups in his home state of Virginia: “He noted that an internal poll in his old congressional district shows Connolly running neck-and-neck with Republican Pat Herrity, a Fairfax County supervisor, one of the leading candidates to win the GOP nomination. Davis also pointed to Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) as an enticing target, asserting that he put his seat in play by supporting a cap-and-trade energy bill that is highly unpopular with constituents in his coal-producing district.”

Zachery Kouwe resigns from the New York Times in a plagiarism scandal. Maureen Dowd keeps chugging along.

Democratic senatorial campaign committee chairman Bob Menendez is getting blamed for the Democrats’ tailspin. But is it really his fault? Well, “no one claims Menendez is entirely to blame for Martha Coakley’s humiliating defeat in Massachusetts, the retirements of Bayh and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan and Beau Biden’s decision to skip the Delaware Senate race. They cite any number of external factors that have dimmed the party’s prospects: the tanking popularity of President Barack Obama and his policies, the inevitability of Democratic letdown after four years of historic successes and, above all, the lousy economy.” But he’s going to get slammed because the alternative is blaming Obama.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The mayor of Las Vegas, despite numbers from helpful (or is it desperate?) Democratic polling outfits showing he would do better against Republican challengers to Harry Reid, says he won’t run. Recruitment is hard for the side facing rather than riding the wave.

Surveying the Democratic retirements and opt-outs, it sure does seem that “Democrats are spooked at all levels. Beau Biden’s Delaware bid has always had a Coakleyesque Democratic entitlement aroma to it, and Massachusetts has now sensitized the noses of the rest of the nation. Much more so than Republicans, Democratic congressional candidates are often products of their urban party machines, but I sure wouldn’t want to be a machine candidate running for Congress anywhere in the country next fall.”

Speaking of machines, the Illinois Senate primary race has heated up. The Democratic front-runner, Alexi Giannoulias, is being attacked for his ties to Tony Rezko. You sort of see how that would be a problem in the general election.

Democrats in Illinois seem awfully jumpy: “A televised forum among the three leading Democrats for the Senate last week seemed to transform into a scuffle over which one would be least likely, come November, to repeat what happened in Massachusetts. (Along the way, they struck notes that sounded not so unlike Mr. Brown.)”

Meanwhile, the White House doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Politico reports: “White House advisers appearing on the Sunday talk shows gave three different estimates of how many jobs could be credited to President Obama’s Recovery Act.”

Liberals can barely disguise their disdain for the Obami’s muddled health-care stance. TNR complains: “The White House seems to agree that passing the Senate bill and fixing it with reconciliation would be the best way to proceed. But that doesn’t mean they’re pushing hard for that option. According to the same sources, the Obama administration sent vague, sometimes conflicting signals about its intentions for much of last week–making the task for reform advocates even harder.” (And he could have been such a fine editor for them!) Perhaps the Obami just want the whole health-care thing to go away. That they might finally accomplish.

Megan McArdle explains how to do precisely that: “We want to pass health care, but we just have a few things to do first. … Once it goes on the back burner, it’s over. As time goes by, voters will be thinking less and less about the health care bill they hated, and more and more about other things in the news. There is not going to be any appetite among Democrats for returning to this toxic process and refreshing those bad memories. They’re going to want to spend the time between now and the election talking about things that voters, y’know, like.”

Victor Davis Hanson takes us down memory lane: “After Van Jones, Anita Dunn, the Skip Gates mess, the ‘tea-bagger’ slurs, the attacks on Fox News, the Copenhagen dashes, the bowing, the apologizing, the reordering of creditors, the NEA obsequiousness, the lackluster overseas-contingency-operation front, the deer-in-the-headlights pause on Afghanistan, the pseudo-deadlines on Iran, Guantanamo, and health care, the transparency and bipartisanship fraud, and dozens of other things, Obama simply does not have the popularity to carry unpopular legislation forward.”

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that “a new report warns that al-Qaeda has not abandoned its goal of attacking the United States with a chemical, biological or even nuclear weapon. The report, by a former senior CIA official who led the agency’s hunt for terrorists’ weapons of mass destruction, portrays al-Qaeda’s leaders as determined and patient, willing to wait for years to acquire the kinds of weapons that could inflict widespread casualties.” (Not even if we close Guantanamo? Give KSM his trial? No.) Seems like a good reminder that whenever we grab an al-Qaeda operative, we should be doing everything within our power to get every bit of data we can in order to prevent an attack with “widespread casualties.”

The mayor of Las Vegas, despite numbers from helpful (or is it desperate?) Democratic polling outfits showing he would do better against Republican challengers to Harry Reid, says he won’t run. Recruitment is hard for the side facing rather than riding the wave.

Surveying the Democratic retirements and opt-outs, it sure does seem that “Democrats are spooked at all levels. Beau Biden’s Delaware bid has always had a Coakleyesque Democratic entitlement aroma to it, and Massachusetts has now sensitized the noses of the rest of the nation. Much more so than Republicans, Democratic congressional candidates are often products of their urban party machines, but I sure wouldn’t want to be a machine candidate running for Congress anywhere in the country next fall.”

Speaking of machines, the Illinois Senate primary race has heated up. The Democratic front-runner, Alexi Giannoulias, is being attacked for his ties to Tony Rezko. You sort of see how that would be a problem in the general election.

Democrats in Illinois seem awfully jumpy: “A televised forum among the three leading Democrats for the Senate last week seemed to transform into a scuffle over which one would be least likely, come November, to repeat what happened in Massachusetts. (Along the way, they struck notes that sounded not so unlike Mr. Brown.)”

Meanwhile, the White House doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Politico reports: “White House advisers appearing on the Sunday talk shows gave three different estimates of how many jobs could be credited to President Obama’s Recovery Act.”

Liberals can barely disguise their disdain for the Obami’s muddled health-care stance. TNR complains: “The White House seems to agree that passing the Senate bill and fixing it with reconciliation would be the best way to proceed. But that doesn’t mean they’re pushing hard for that option. According to the same sources, the Obama administration sent vague, sometimes conflicting signals about its intentions for much of last week–making the task for reform advocates even harder.” (And he could have been such a fine editor for them!) Perhaps the Obami just want the whole health-care thing to go away. That they might finally accomplish.

Megan McArdle explains how to do precisely that: “We want to pass health care, but we just have a few things to do first. … Once it goes on the back burner, it’s over. As time goes by, voters will be thinking less and less about the health care bill they hated, and more and more about other things in the news. There is not going to be any appetite among Democrats for returning to this toxic process and refreshing those bad memories. They’re going to want to spend the time between now and the election talking about things that voters, y’know, like.”

Victor Davis Hanson takes us down memory lane: “After Van Jones, Anita Dunn, the Skip Gates mess, the ‘tea-bagger’ slurs, the attacks on Fox News, the Copenhagen dashes, the bowing, the apologizing, the reordering of creditors, the NEA obsequiousness, the lackluster overseas-contingency-operation front, the deer-in-the-headlights pause on Afghanistan, the pseudo-deadlines on Iran, Guantanamo, and health care, the transparency and bipartisanship fraud, and dozens of other things, Obama simply does not have the popularity to carry unpopular legislation forward.”

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that “a new report warns that al-Qaeda has not abandoned its goal of attacking the United States with a chemical, biological or even nuclear weapon. The report, by a former senior CIA official who led the agency’s hunt for terrorists’ weapons of mass destruction, portrays al-Qaeda’s leaders as determined and patient, willing to wait for years to acquire the kinds of weapons that could inflict widespread casualties.” (Not even if we close Guantanamo? Give KSM his trial? No.) Seems like a good reminder that whenever we grab an al-Qaeda operative, we should be doing everything within our power to get every bit of data we can in order to prevent an attack with “widespread casualties.”

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Game On

China announced its first successful test of an antiballistic-missile system on Jan. 11. The Pentagon confirms detecting the test. American pundits note in passing that this represents an apparent shift in China’s long-maintained political stance on ballistic-missile defense (BMD), but they are more eager to focus on the connection between the Chinese test and our Patriot-system sale to Taiwan.

They should back up and look again at their first point. It’s China’s posture shift on the role of BMD systems in global security that will matter in the long run. China has indeed, as the New York Times analysis points out, been a perennial opponent of the BMD concept advanced in U.S. defense programming. Throughout its participation in the nuclear age, China has hewed to the same line as Russia: that global stability is preserved, in fact if not always in name, by mutual assured destruction. U.S. analysts have known for some years now that Beijing could turn its anti-satellite technology on the BMD problem, but China’s pattern, like Russia’s, has been to develop and test in secret while staking out a contradictory political posture.

The contradictory political posture has been abandoned, and that means more than that China is mad at us. It means that China perceives that the old conditions have expired. Under those old conditions, the chief dynamic involved Russia trying to forestall U.S. deployment of our “National Missile Defense” — the concept that would fully supersede MAD. But that condition no longer obtains, because with President Obama’s September 2009 policy reversal, Russia has succeeded.

The significance for China of our Patriot sale to Taiwan, assuming it is consummated, is that Beijing will have been unable to deter us given the same conditions in which Russia succeeded. That is inevitably a blot on China’s image as a great power. The BMD system launch of Jan. 11 was not announced solely for our benefit; it was a signal to the rest of the world too — starting with Russia, Japan, and India — that China has superpower options of its own and will use them. With Obama’s America retreating self-consciously to a “just one of the guys” security posture, the global interplay of power demonstrations, influence, and intimidation will increasingly be anyone’s game.

Not everything will be about us, in 2010 and beyond — but everything will affect us. Victor Davis Hanson has an apt metaphor for it this week, depicting the emerging international situation as a gunfight brewing at the OK Corral. He correctly predicts that the participants will achieve as much as they can with flashy holster work. But without the early, preemptive intervention of a sheriff, bullets eventually fly. China’s fundamental change of posture this week, regarding the basis of global security, is a signal: game on.

China announced its first successful test of an antiballistic-missile system on Jan. 11. The Pentagon confirms detecting the test. American pundits note in passing that this represents an apparent shift in China’s long-maintained political stance on ballistic-missile defense (BMD), but they are more eager to focus on the connection between the Chinese test and our Patriot-system sale to Taiwan.

They should back up and look again at their first point. It’s China’s posture shift on the role of BMD systems in global security that will matter in the long run. China has indeed, as the New York Times analysis points out, been a perennial opponent of the BMD concept advanced in U.S. defense programming. Throughout its participation in the nuclear age, China has hewed to the same line as Russia: that global stability is preserved, in fact if not always in name, by mutual assured destruction. U.S. analysts have known for some years now that Beijing could turn its anti-satellite technology on the BMD problem, but China’s pattern, like Russia’s, has been to develop and test in secret while staking out a contradictory political posture.

The contradictory political posture has been abandoned, and that means more than that China is mad at us. It means that China perceives that the old conditions have expired. Under those old conditions, the chief dynamic involved Russia trying to forestall U.S. deployment of our “National Missile Defense” — the concept that would fully supersede MAD. But that condition no longer obtains, because with President Obama’s September 2009 policy reversal, Russia has succeeded.

The significance for China of our Patriot sale to Taiwan, assuming it is consummated, is that Beijing will have been unable to deter us given the same conditions in which Russia succeeded. That is inevitably a blot on China’s image as a great power. The BMD system launch of Jan. 11 was not announced solely for our benefit; it was a signal to the rest of the world too — starting with Russia, Japan, and India — that China has superpower options of its own and will use them. With Obama’s America retreating self-consciously to a “just one of the guys” security posture, the global interplay of power demonstrations, influence, and intimidation will increasingly be anyone’s game.

Not everything will be about us, in 2010 and beyond — but everything will affect us. Victor Davis Hanson has an apt metaphor for it this week, depicting the emerging international situation as a gunfight brewing at the OK Corral. He correctly predicts that the participants will achieve as much as they can with flashy holster work. But without the early, preemptive intervention of a sheriff, bullets eventually fly. China’s fundamental change of posture this week, regarding the basis of global security, is a signal: game on.

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Carrots, Sticks, and Trips

President Obama’s trip to Asia has drawn unfavorable reviews from people as diverse as Leslie Gelb (“disturbing amateurishness” on top of the “inexcusably clumsy” Afghan review) and John Bolton (“one of the most disappointing trips by any U.S. president to the region in decades”) — but none as devastating as that of Christopher Badeaux in the New Ledger (a foreign policy “premised on the idea that the Carter Administration was not inherently wrong on anything, just well ahead of its time”).

Badeaux notes that the critical feature of the relatively successful China polices of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush was their recognition that “the carrot and the stick are closely joined”:

American Presidents praise a free, prosperous China. They speak of strategic partnerships while directing carrier battle groups in the Pacific. They talk about One China while approving arms shipments to Taiwan and hugging the Dalai Lama. They let China know that it faces no threat from the United States, but that it could.

Obama’s trip seemed simply another stop on a world tour to introduce (in Victor Davis Hanson’s phrase) the exceptional president of an unexceptional nation, complete with an even more exaggerated bow. The only good thing one can say is that at least he showed up (rather than simply send a video) and did not mention that Richard Nixon — one of our pre-Pacific chief executives — could not have imagined when he went to China in 1972 that Obama would one day be president.

The real consequences of this foreign-policy embarrassment, however, may not be in Asia but in Iran. As Iran watches the president on his self-absorbed travels (he is scheduled to pick up an unearned prize in Oslo on December 10 and again address his fellow citizens of the world) and observes him as he redoubles his efforts to talk every time they stiff him, it can be excused for thinking that the chances of its ever facing a stick rather than a carrot are slim.

President Obama’s trip to Asia has drawn unfavorable reviews from people as diverse as Leslie Gelb (“disturbing amateurishness” on top of the “inexcusably clumsy” Afghan review) and John Bolton (“one of the most disappointing trips by any U.S. president to the region in decades”) — but none as devastating as that of Christopher Badeaux in the New Ledger (a foreign policy “premised on the idea that the Carter Administration was not inherently wrong on anything, just well ahead of its time”).

Badeaux notes that the critical feature of the relatively successful China polices of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush was their recognition that “the carrot and the stick are closely joined”:

American Presidents praise a free, prosperous China. They speak of strategic partnerships while directing carrier battle groups in the Pacific. They talk about One China while approving arms shipments to Taiwan and hugging the Dalai Lama. They let China know that it faces no threat from the United States, but that it could.

Obama’s trip seemed simply another stop on a world tour to introduce (in Victor Davis Hanson’s phrase) the exceptional president of an unexceptional nation, complete with an even more exaggerated bow. The only good thing one can say is that at least he showed up (rather than simply send a video) and did not mention that Richard Nixon — one of our pre-Pacific chief executives — could not have imagined when he went to China in 1972 that Obama would one day be president.

The real consequences of this foreign-policy embarrassment, however, may not be in Asia but in Iran. As Iran watches the president on his self-absorbed travels (he is scheduled to pick up an unearned prize in Oslo on December 10 and again address his fellow citizens of the world) and observes him as he redoubles his efforts to talk every time they stiff him, it can be excused for thinking that the chances of its ever facing a stick rather than a carrot are slim.

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Consumer Confidence and Barack Obama

Today, the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence, after months of decline, is at a near 16-year low. This comes, of course, as no surprise. Recent polls have shown that Americans are overwhelmingly convinced that the economy is in catastrophic shape; Alan Greenspan is on record discussing the “the most wrenching” financial crisis since World War II. But what exactly accounts for this degree of despair?

Two weeks ago, in the Wall Street Journal, Zachary Karabell wrote:

[I]t would be a stretch to rank the current problems as especially notable or dramatic. Something else is going on–namely a cultural rut of pessimism that is draining our collective energy, blinding us to possibilities, and eroding our position in the world.

Right now we have an unemployment rate of 5% and headline inflation topping 4%. We have economic growth of 0.6%, extremely low consumer confidence and weakening consumer spending, small business optimism at a 28-year low, and of course a housing market that is showing declines in excess of 20% in some parts of the country.

These are hardly statistics to celebrate, but they are a far cry from the crises of the 20th century. Next time someone compares the present to the Great Depression, stop them.

Stopping all the people who make that claim these days wouldn’t leave you much time to do anything else. Karabell went on:

It is also common today to hear comparisons to the stagflation and grim economy of the 1970s. Here too perspective is in order.

For all the present talk of volatility, in 1973 and 1974 the economy expanded 10% in the first quarter of 1973, contracted 2.1% in the third quarter, went up 3.9% in the fourth quarter, went down 3.4% in the first quarter of 1974, then up 1.2% in the second quarter – continuing like a bouncing ball for another year.

The unemployment rate went from 4.9% in 1973 to 8.5% in 1977, and then nearly broke 10% in 1982. Meanwhile the stock market went from 1067 in January 1973 to 570 in December 1974, a drop of 46%. And there was double-digit inflation and a sharp rise in the price of oil, which represented a higher percentage of consumer spending than today.

Victor Davis Hanson has noted the same insistence over evidence that it’s almost breadline time:

Last week, I asked a fierce Bush critic what he thought were the current unemployment rate, the mortgage default rate, the latest economic growth figures, interest rates and the status of the stock market.

He blurted out the common campaign pessimism: “Recession! Worst since the Depression!”

Then he scoffed when I suggested that the answer was really a 5 percent joblessness rate in April that was lower than the March figure; 95 to 96 percent of mortgages not entering foreclosure in this year’s first quarter; .6 percent growth during the quarter (weak, but not recession level); historically low interest rates; and sky-high stock market prices.

There are serious problems–high fuel costs, rising food prices, staggering foreign debt, unfunded entitlements, and annual deficits. Yet a president or vice president running for office (and covered incessantly by the media) would at least make the argument that there is a lot of good news . . .

This gets to the heart of the matter. In 2004, James Carville astutely noted the following:

And by and large, our message has been we can manage problems, while the Republicans, although they will say we can solve problems, they produce a narrative. We produce a litany. They say, “I’m going to protect you from the terrorists in Tehran and the homos in Hollywood.” We say, “We’re for clean air, better schools, more health care.” And so there’s a Republican narrative, a story, and there’s a Democratic litany.

Carville is one of the Clinton faithful, but there’s no doubt that it’s Barack Obama who hit on the right narrative and figured out how to sell it. Couched in language about hope and change, Obama’s message is ultimately one of abjection and despair. From his routine stump speech to his time-stopping epic on race in America, Obama wants you to know that Americans have it bad, worse than you realized, and he’s going to get us out of it. Americans work every shift and still can’t pay their bills; they go hungry to pay for chemotherapy. But if he’s elected, together, under his audacious guidance, we just might make it through. He is a remarkably talented narrator and as we’ve seen his audience is rapt. The fact that there is some genuine financial concern in America lends legitimacy to his exaggeration. The vicious cycle is in place. We’re told the economy is dismal, we say so in polls, we read the poll results as confirmation of what we’ve been told, we look to the candidate for change who tells us the economy is dismal.

In 1992, Bill Clinton became president by convincing voters that the economy was tanking. It mattered not at all that that year’s growth rate was above the yearly average since 1945. As Americans continue to despair about the catastrophe that isn’t, Barack Obama inches ever closer to the White House.

Today, the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence, after months of decline, is at a near 16-year low. This comes, of course, as no surprise. Recent polls have shown that Americans are overwhelmingly convinced that the economy is in catastrophic shape; Alan Greenspan is on record discussing the “the most wrenching” financial crisis since World War II. But what exactly accounts for this degree of despair?

Two weeks ago, in the Wall Street Journal, Zachary Karabell wrote:

[I]t would be a stretch to rank the current problems as especially notable or dramatic. Something else is going on–namely a cultural rut of pessimism that is draining our collective energy, blinding us to possibilities, and eroding our position in the world.

Right now we have an unemployment rate of 5% and headline inflation topping 4%. We have economic growth of 0.6%, extremely low consumer confidence and weakening consumer spending, small business optimism at a 28-year low, and of course a housing market that is showing declines in excess of 20% in some parts of the country.

These are hardly statistics to celebrate, but they are a far cry from the crises of the 20th century. Next time someone compares the present to the Great Depression, stop them.

Stopping all the people who make that claim these days wouldn’t leave you much time to do anything else. Karabell went on:

It is also common today to hear comparisons to the stagflation and grim economy of the 1970s. Here too perspective is in order.

For all the present talk of volatility, in 1973 and 1974 the economy expanded 10% in the first quarter of 1973, contracted 2.1% in the third quarter, went up 3.9% in the fourth quarter, went down 3.4% in the first quarter of 1974, then up 1.2% in the second quarter – continuing like a bouncing ball for another year.

The unemployment rate went from 4.9% in 1973 to 8.5% in 1977, and then nearly broke 10% in 1982. Meanwhile the stock market went from 1067 in January 1973 to 570 in December 1974, a drop of 46%. And there was double-digit inflation and a sharp rise in the price of oil, which represented a higher percentage of consumer spending than today.

Victor Davis Hanson has noted the same insistence over evidence that it’s almost breadline time:

Last week, I asked a fierce Bush critic what he thought were the current unemployment rate, the mortgage default rate, the latest economic growth figures, interest rates and the status of the stock market.

He blurted out the common campaign pessimism: “Recession! Worst since the Depression!”

Then he scoffed when I suggested that the answer was really a 5 percent joblessness rate in April that was lower than the March figure; 95 to 96 percent of mortgages not entering foreclosure in this year’s first quarter; .6 percent growth during the quarter (weak, but not recession level); historically low interest rates; and sky-high stock market prices.

There are serious problems–high fuel costs, rising food prices, staggering foreign debt, unfunded entitlements, and annual deficits. Yet a president or vice president running for office (and covered incessantly by the media) would at least make the argument that there is a lot of good news . . .

This gets to the heart of the matter. In 2004, James Carville astutely noted the following:

And by and large, our message has been we can manage problems, while the Republicans, although they will say we can solve problems, they produce a narrative. We produce a litany. They say, “I’m going to protect you from the terrorists in Tehran and the homos in Hollywood.” We say, “We’re for clean air, better schools, more health care.” And so there’s a Republican narrative, a story, and there’s a Democratic litany.

Carville is one of the Clinton faithful, but there’s no doubt that it’s Barack Obama who hit on the right narrative and figured out how to sell it. Couched in language about hope and change, Obama’s message is ultimately one of abjection and despair. From his routine stump speech to his time-stopping epic on race in America, Obama wants you to know that Americans have it bad, worse than you realized, and he’s going to get us out of it. Americans work every shift and still can’t pay their bills; they go hungry to pay for chemotherapy. But if he’s elected, together, under his audacious guidance, we just might make it through. He is a remarkably talented narrator and as we’ve seen his audience is rapt. The fact that there is some genuine financial concern in America lends legitimacy to his exaggeration. The vicious cycle is in place. We’re told the economy is dismal, we say so in polls, we read the poll results as confirmation of what we’ve been told, we look to the candidate for change who tells us the economy is dismal.

In 1992, Bill Clinton became president by convincing voters that the economy was tanking. It mattered not at all that that year’s growth rate was above the yearly average since 1945. As Americans continue to despair about the catastrophe that isn’t, Barack Obama inches ever closer to the White House.

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Where Are We Losing?

Yesterday ABC News posted a story about the new State Department report on terrorism. There’s been, it seems, an uptick in global terror victims. From the story:

Most dramatically, there was a 50 percent increase worldwide in suicide bombings last year. All told, 66,995 people were killed or wounded in terror attacks in 2007 (up from 59,327 in 2006 and 39,469 in 2005).

They then break down some of the figures by country and offer this:

“Around the globe people are getting increasingly efficient at killing other people,” said Russ Travers of the National Counterterrorism Center, which compiled the data for the report.

The war on terror has been dispiriting in a number of ways, and even as there’s progress being made, we’re sure to encounter many more unforeseeable setbacks. But we are still very much in a live war. And reading something conclusive into these numbers is disingenuous. It’s like visiting one’s car in the body shop, seeing the pieces scattered about, and determining that the mechanics have made things worse.

The bigger problem lies in the fact that the MSM is so eager to seize upon these figures as confirmation of the Bush administration’s incompetence. In a new piece at National Review, Victor Davis Hanson writes that we’re winning the war abroad and losing it here:

After years of learning how to fight an unfamiliar war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to protect us at home, we are finally getting most things right. But if our soldiers and intelligence agencies have learned how to win, our politically-correct diplomats and the American consumer haven’t – and are doing as much at home to empower radical Islam as those on the front lines are to defeat it.

As Hanson points out, the U.S. military is making long-awaited and tangible progress. But if news outlets remain obsessed with exploiting the “most dramatically” depressing numbers, ignoring the positives, and looking to diminish every potential gain, then they’ll continue to make the overall fight that much harder.

Yesterday ABC News posted a story about the new State Department report on terrorism. There’s been, it seems, an uptick in global terror victims. From the story:

Most dramatically, there was a 50 percent increase worldwide in suicide bombings last year. All told, 66,995 people were killed or wounded in terror attacks in 2007 (up from 59,327 in 2006 and 39,469 in 2005).

They then break down some of the figures by country and offer this:

“Around the globe people are getting increasingly efficient at killing other people,” said Russ Travers of the National Counterterrorism Center, which compiled the data for the report.

The war on terror has been dispiriting in a number of ways, and even as there’s progress being made, we’re sure to encounter many more unforeseeable setbacks. But we are still very much in a live war. And reading something conclusive into these numbers is disingenuous. It’s like visiting one’s car in the body shop, seeing the pieces scattered about, and determining that the mechanics have made things worse.

The bigger problem lies in the fact that the MSM is so eager to seize upon these figures as confirmation of the Bush administration’s incompetence. In a new piece at National Review, Victor Davis Hanson writes that we’re winning the war abroad and losing it here:

After years of learning how to fight an unfamiliar war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to protect us at home, we are finally getting most things right. But if our soldiers and intelligence agencies have learned how to win, our politically-correct diplomats and the American consumer haven’t – and are doing as much at home to empower radical Islam as those on the front lines are to defeat it.

As Hanson points out, the U.S. military is making long-awaited and tangible progress. But if news outlets remain obsessed with exploiting the “most dramatically” depressing numbers, ignoring the positives, and looking to diminish every potential gain, then they’ll continue to make the overall fight that much harder.

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Yes They Did!

Victor Davis Hanson recently gave an interview to the Swiss newspaper Junge Freiheit. The reporter asked what makes Europe and the U.S. so different from each other. Not a word is wasted in Hanson’s lapidary exposition on the cultural and political split within the West.

We have a common legacy, as the elections in France and Germany remind us. And we coalesce when faced by a common illiberal enemy — whether against the Soviet empire or radical Islam.

But after the fall of the Soviet Union, you diverged onto a secularized, affluent, leisured, socialist, and pacifist path, where in the pride and arrogance of the Enlightenment you were convinced you could make heaven on earth — and would demonize as retrograde anyone who begged to differ.

Now you are living with the results of your arrogance: while you brand the U.S. illiberal, it grows its population, diversifies and assimilates, and offers economic opportunity and jobs; although, for a time you’ve become wealthy — given your lack of defense spending, commercial unity, and protectionism — but only up to a point: soon the bill comes due as you age, face a demographic crisis, become imprisoned by secular appetites and ever growing entitlements. Once one insists on an equality of result, not one of mere opportunity, then, as Plato warned, there is no logical end to what the government will think up and the people will demand.

“Pacifist,” “heaven on earth,” “lack of defense spending,” “ever growing entitlements,” and the demonization as “retrograde” of those who disagree. Sound like anyone you know?

Victor Davis Hanson recently gave an interview to the Swiss newspaper Junge Freiheit. The reporter asked what makes Europe and the U.S. so different from each other. Not a word is wasted in Hanson’s lapidary exposition on the cultural and political split within the West.

We have a common legacy, as the elections in France and Germany remind us. And we coalesce when faced by a common illiberal enemy — whether against the Soviet empire or radical Islam.

But after the fall of the Soviet Union, you diverged onto a secularized, affluent, leisured, socialist, and pacifist path, where in the pride and arrogance of the Enlightenment you were convinced you could make heaven on earth — and would demonize as retrograde anyone who begged to differ.

Now you are living with the results of your arrogance: while you brand the U.S. illiberal, it grows its population, diversifies and assimilates, and offers economic opportunity and jobs; although, for a time you’ve become wealthy — given your lack of defense spending, commercial unity, and protectionism — but only up to a point: soon the bill comes due as you age, face a demographic crisis, become imprisoned by secular appetites and ever growing entitlements. Once one insists on an equality of result, not one of mere opportunity, then, as Plato warned, there is no logical end to what the government will think up and the people will demand.

“Pacifist,” “heaven on earth,” “lack of defense spending,” “ever growing entitlements,” and the demonization as “retrograde” of those who disagree. Sound like anyone you know?

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Kleenex Nation

A few years ago, superstar satirist Sacha Baron Cohen, in the character of moronic Ali G, interviewed Newt Gingrich.

“Do you think a woman will ever be president?” asked Cohen.

“Absolutely,” Said Gingrich.

[…]

“But ain’t there the problem that if he [Saddam Hussein] declares war she’ll just start crying and everything?”

“The kind of woman who would rise to be president I think would be very comfortable saying if you really want to fight we’ll do what it takes.”

Hillary Clinton is about to declare victory in the war on satire. Blogger Jason George reports that she turned on the waterworks today at a speaking event in New Haven Connecticut:

Penn Rhodeen, who was introducing Clinton, began to choke up, leading Clinton’s eyes to fill with tears, which she wiped out of her left eye. At the time, Rhodeen was saying how proud he was that sheepskin-coat, bell-bottom-wearing young woman he met in 1972 was now running for president.

“Well, I said I would not tear up; already we’re not exactly on the path,” Clinton said with emotion after the introduction.

Every time Hillary “cries” it should be noted that that “bell-bottom-wearing young woman” is not only running for president, but for commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces—during war.

To make matters worse, like the Corsican brothers, who suffered each other’s pains while apart, the Clintons have embarked on a program of coordinated crying. Victor Davis Hanson reports that yesterday Bill Clinton went soft and blubbery at an LA Church:

[W]e got the swollen, teary-eyed reminiscences about his impoverished parent. His voice was at times barely audible. His pauses went on for a few seconds, as he carefully drew his breath and like Ajax in his soliloquy solemnly went on. He bit his lip enough no doubt to require minor surgery.

That the crying is calculated is an old story. But someone should tell the weepy twosome that when a nation is at war, its leaders’ tears have the same effect, fake or not.

A few years ago, superstar satirist Sacha Baron Cohen, in the character of moronic Ali G, interviewed Newt Gingrich.

“Do you think a woman will ever be president?” asked Cohen.

“Absolutely,” Said Gingrich.

[…]

“But ain’t there the problem that if he [Saddam Hussein] declares war she’ll just start crying and everything?”

“The kind of woman who would rise to be president I think would be very comfortable saying if you really want to fight we’ll do what it takes.”

Hillary Clinton is about to declare victory in the war on satire. Blogger Jason George reports that she turned on the waterworks today at a speaking event in New Haven Connecticut:

Penn Rhodeen, who was introducing Clinton, began to choke up, leading Clinton’s eyes to fill with tears, which she wiped out of her left eye. At the time, Rhodeen was saying how proud he was that sheepskin-coat, bell-bottom-wearing young woman he met in 1972 was now running for president.

“Well, I said I would not tear up; already we’re not exactly on the path,” Clinton said with emotion after the introduction.

Every time Hillary “cries” it should be noted that that “bell-bottom-wearing young woman” is not only running for president, but for commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces—during war.

To make matters worse, like the Corsican brothers, who suffered each other’s pains while apart, the Clintons have embarked on a program of coordinated crying. Victor Davis Hanson reports that yesterday Bill Clinton went soft and blubbery at an LA Church:

[W]e got the swollen, teary-eyed reminiscences about his impoverished parent. His voice was at times barely audible. His pauses went on for a few seconds, as he carefully drew his breath and like Ajax in his soliloquy solemnly went on. He bit his lip enough no doubt to require minor surgery.

That the crying is calculated is an old story. But someone should tell the weepy twosome that when a nation is at war, its leaders’ tears have the same effect, fake or not.

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The (Non)Conservatives Against McCain

The rabid strain of anti-McCain sentiment among media conservatives is, in fact, a betrayal of one of the most important principles of conservatism itself: the willingness to work with the concrete facts of a situation. The great strength of a politically conservative mindset is that it’s predicated on seeing the world as it is. When Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Hugh Hewitt, and Rush Limbaugh threaten to deny McCain their vote because he’s not an ideal conservative, they come off more like quixotic Ron Paul undergrads or deluded moveon.orgers than like the realists they pride themselves on being. If it’s McCain’s lack of a consistent political philosophy that truly bothers this lot, then they can’t possibly mean it when they say they prefer Hillary. We know that the only politics she practices, and the only philosophy she abides, is that of the ferociously personal. So, what the McCain-haters are really doing is protesting the sub-Reagan Republican.

Recently, Victor Davis Hanson wrote a much needed reminder about the real Ronald Reagan. Hanson cited Reagan’s tax hikes, governmental bloat, and amnesty for illegals. The point is not that Reagan betrayed conservatives, but that his conservatism was not the pristine ideology-in-action that many now remember.

It’s liberals who are supposed to view political and cultural matters as they are not—in idealized hues. (And some describe neoconservatives as seeing the world as it could be.) But conservatives are supposed to size up a predicament for what it is, and make a non-sentimental decision. Conservatives do a cost-benefit analysis; liberals are the ones who take the ball and go home after an argument on the playground. Yet there they go: Rush, Michelle, Hugh, and Ann kicking up the dirt as they pout their way off the field.

The rabid strain of anti-McCain sentiment among media conservatives is, in fact, a betrayal of one of the most important principles of conservatism itself: the willingness to work with the concrete facts of a situation. The great strength of a politically conservative mindset is that it’s predicated on seeing the world as it is. When Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Hugh Hewitt, and Rush Limbaugh threaten to deny McCain their vote because he’s not an ideal conservative, they come off more like quixotic Ron Paul undergrads or deluded moveon.orgers than like the realists they pride themselves on being. If it’s McCain’s lack of a consistent political philosophy that truly bothers this lot, then they can’t possibly mean it when they say they prefer Hillary. We know that the only politics she practices, and the only philosophy she abides, is that of the ferociously personal. So, what the McCain-haters are really doing is protesting the sub-Reagan Republican.

Recently, Victor Davis Hanson wrote a much needed reminder about the real Ronald Reagan. Hanson cited Reagan’s tax hikes, governmental bloat, and amnesty for illegals. The point is not that Reagan betrayed conservatives, but that his conservatism was not the pristine ideology-in-action that many now remember.

It’s liberals who are supposed to view political and cultural matters as they are not—in idealized hues. (And some describe neoconservatives as seeing the world as it could be.) But conservatives are supposed to size up a predicament for what it is, and make a non-sentimental decision. Conservatives do a cost-benefit analysis; liberals are the ones who take the ball and go home after an argument on the playground. Yet there they go: Rush, Michelle, Hugh, and Ann kicking up the dirt as they pout their way off the field.

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McCain’s Speech

He is especially complimentary of Rudy, but gracious all around. He understands he must gather in the party faithful and is hitting conservative themes: fiscal sobriety, limited government, low taxes, judges who adhere to judging and the like. McCain has been remarkably disciplined and I think he has the wind at his back. He showed that tonight. Barring an utter personal meltdown, which I think highly unlikely, he will be the nominee. I agree with Victor Davis Hanson that it is a good week for the conservative base to come to terms with that.

He is especially complimentary of Rudy, but gracious all around. He understands he must gather in the party faithful and is hitting conservative themes: fiscal sobriety, limited government, low taxes, judges who adhere to judging and the like. McCain has been remarkably disciplined and I think he has the wind at his back. He showed that tonight. Barring an utter personal meltdown, which I think highly unlikely, he will be the nominee. I agree with Victor Davis Hanson that it is a good week for the conservative base to come to terms with that.

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The 2007 National Humanities Medal

Today, President Bush has awarded the National Humanities Medal to a number of important contributors to American intellectual life. We’re delighted to say that five of the honorees have close ties with COMMENTARY: military historian Victor Davis Hanson, the novelist and essayist Cynthia Ozick, Russia scholar Richard Pipes, Harvard professor of Yiddish literature Ruth R. Wisse, and Roger Hertog, a distinguished patron of the humanities and a longtime supporter of COMMENTARY. We’ve made available free of charge some of the major items written by the honorees.

Victor Davis Hanson
Iraq’s Future—and Ours (January 2004)
Goodbye to Europe (October 2002)

Cynthia Ozick
The Rights of History and the Rights of Imagination (March 1999)
Envy; or, Yiddish in America (November 1969)

Richard Pipes
Life, Liberty, Property (March 1999)
Russia’s Chance (March 1992)

Ruth R. Wisse
At Home in Jerusalem (April 2003)
Yiddish: Past, Present, Imperfect (November 1997)

Today, President Bush has awarded the National Humanities Medal to a number of important contributors to American intellectual life. We’re delighted to say that five of the honorees have close ties with COMMENTARY: military historian Victor Davis Hanson, the novelist and essayist Cynthia Ozick, Russia scholar Richard Pipes, Harvard professor of Yiddish literature Ruth R. Wisse, and Roger Hertog, a distinguished patron of the humanities and a longtime supporter of COMMENTARY. We’ve made available free of charge some of the major items written by the honorees.

Victor Davis Hanson
Iraq’s Future—and Ours (January 2004)
Goodbye to Europe (October 2002)

Cynthia Ozick
The Rights of History and the Rights of Imagination (March 1999)
Envy; or, Yiddish in America (November 1969)

Richard Pipes
Life, Liberty, Property (March 1999)
Russia’s Chance (March 1992)

Ruth R. Wisse
At Home in Jerusalem (April 2003)
Yiddish: Past, Present, Imperfect (November 1997)

Read Less




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